Your winter illness 101: from norovirus to pneumonia

’Tis the season… for norovirus, cold sores, even pneumonia! Our gift to you? These top bug-beaters
Photography: Alamy, Getty Images

Wash your hands wisely

Shock fact: loads of us don’t wash our hands properly! It’s one of the easiest ways to stop spreading/catching all sorts of viruses and bugs. Here’s a refresher: use enough soap to cover hands back and front, and wash for as long as it takes to sing ‘Happy Birthday’ twice. And don’t miss these common bug hideouts: fingertips, between fingers, around thumbs, under rings, watches, bracelets and under nails.

Swot up on pneumonia

There are at least five types of pneumonia, which causes inflammation of the tissue in one or both lungs. Pneumonia affects around 0.5% to 1% of adults in the UK each year. And get this: one in four cases of pneumonia occurs in under-65s! Boots offers a vaccination service** to help protect against 13 common strains of Streptococcus pneumoniae bacteria that can cause it. If you’re over 65, you may be eligible to have it for free†. Oh, and know this: going to the dentist regularly may decrease your risk of pneumonia – by reducing bacteria in the mouth! Who knew?


dental mirror tool


Be a norovirus know-all

A massive 685 million around the globe get norovirus each year! Nursing homes, hospitals, kids’ day-care centres and schools are common breeding grounds (blame the close proximity to others!). Here’s how to help fight back…

The dreaded vomiting bug is the perfect excuse for a Netflix binge! You need to wait after norovirus symptoms have passed (you’ll still be contagious) before going back to work, school, your GP†† or visiting anyone in hospital.

Drink up
Dehydration is a risk (dry mouth/dark yellow urine are signs), so drink plenty of fluids to help prevent and treat dehydration due to diarrhoea: Boots Rehydration Treatment (6 sachets; always read the label).

Avoid rich food
When you’re trying to keep something down, make it plain: non-creamy soups, rice, pasta and bread.

Ease Discomfort
There’s no cure – sorry! So you’ll need to let it run its course – usually a few days. Consider taking paracetamol if you have a high temperature, headache or aching limbs*.

Protect your pooch
Human norovirus may even infect our canine companions, according to research! So no snuggles with Patch until you’re feeling better!


cute dog

Get supplement savvy

Your risk of pneumonia may go up 2.5 times if you have low vit-D (one in five does). It won’t prevent or cure the illness, but it’s recommended for us in the UK to consider a daily vitamin D supplement in autumn and winter to protect our musculoskeletal health: BetterYou Dlux 1000 Daily Vitamin Oral Spray (15ml).


ladies mouth


Beware the itch

Did you know you can spread the cold sore virus before a blister even shows? It’s contagious from about six to 48 hours before a cold sore appears or until it’s completely healed. Signs you’re developing one? Itching, tingling, burning and/or pain at the outbreak site. At the first sign of symptoms, wash hands regularly, avoid touching your eyes (if the infection spreads, it could cause sight issues) and don’t kiss anyone or share cutlery. The same applies to your genitals (and anyone else’s you’re touching!).

Get your cold sore kit

An antiviral cream, such as  Boots Antiviral Cold Sore Cream (2g), should be used at the tingle or blister stage of a cold sore to help promote healing. Contains aciclovir; always read the label.

Consider Bonjela Cool Mint Gel (15g), to help soothe pain and swelling due to cold sores. Always read the label.

Compeed Cold Sore Patch (15-pack), to help soothe, prevent spreading and encourage healing.


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*Norovirus can be very unpleasant, but it usually clears up by itself in a few days. You can normally look after yourself or your child at home. However, get medical advice if symptoms are severe or persist, you’re concerned about any unusual symptoms, or you have a baby or young child who’s unwell or showing signs of dehydration. **Subject to eligibility criteria, specially trained pharmacist and stock availability. Available in selected stores. Charges apply. †Under-65s with a long-term condition, such as diabetes, may also be eligible for a free NHS pneumonia vaccination. See, or ask your doctor for more information. The Boots Pneumonia Vaccination Service does not replace the need for the NHS vaccination. ††You don’t normally need to see your GP if you think you or your child has norovirus, as there’s no specific treatment for it. Visiting your GP surgery with norovirus can put others at risk, so it’s best to call your GP, or the NHS 24 ‘111’, service if you’re concerned or feel you need advice.